I think it is safe to say that we have all heard this term kicked around on, and off, the job by firefighters and civilians alike, and I’d like to talk a little about it.
It has been used most often disparagingly, and at the very least, as a “joke”. So let’s start at the beginning. What is a “Wanna-be”?
The definition on the online dictionary is as follows;
1. One who aspires to a role or position.
2. One who imitates the behavior, customs, or dress of an admired person or group.
Of those two possible definitions, I lean heavily towards #1; “One who aspires”. And in the spirit of the December Birthday Boy, let he without… cast the first stone. How many of us weren’t “Wanna-be’s”? Almost every one of us was extremely keen and eager to become a firefighter. Many came through the system as a volunteer or paid-on-call firefighter (I know, I know…it was different when you were a volunteer…insert eye roll here). Some of us went straight into a full-time position without the understanding, knowledge and experience that comes from being a “volly”.
I had a very limited understanding of what I was signing up for…but, I will speak for myself when I say I REALLY “wanted to be”. There wasn’t anything I wanted much more. And I was ready and willing to take the steps and commit to the work that it would take to achieve that goal. In fact, I first applied to Maple Ridge as a volunteer and was turned down. But, man, I wanted to be the guy to go in there and do the dirty work, the grunt work; the guy who would mentor under the “salty” Career vets; the young guy who would prove his worth and contribute, however I could.
Imagine how that young man or woman feels when someone who they look up to, an "A team Member", refers to them as a “Wanna-be”…somehow, not as valued or “up to snuff” as the guy or gal they look to as a leader, teacher and example. By the above definition, “an admired person”.
I’m pretty confident that the Boston Bruins first-liners don’t call their third and fourth-liners “wanna-be’s”. Instead, I would suggest that they train them up, build them up and move them up. And those that fit best on the third and fourth line, they appreciate them for the grinding and heavy lifting that are often asked to do.
So I, for one, am flipping the script. I will take this as a compliment from here, forward. I am a self-confessed “Wanna-be”. I definitely “wanna-be” a better firefighter, a better chief, a better team member, a better friend and a better Dad, (not a better husband though. A guy can only do so much! ;)
I invite all of you to do the same.
But at the very least, remember where you started and think of what you are saying about you the next time you say “Wanna-be”.